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Mask-Wearing

On July 27, 2021, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued updated guidance on Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People. Executive Order 13991 requires agencies to adhere to current public health measures as provided in CDC guidance, including with respect to mask wearing, physical distancing, and other safety measures. These frequently asked questions address how this CDC guidance applies to federal employees, onsite contractor employees, and visitors to federal buildings and federal lands.

Q: Do fully vaccinated federal employees, onsite contractor employees, or visitors need to wear a mask or physically distance in federal buildings or on federal lands?

A: In areas of high or substantial transmission, fully vaccinated people need to wear a mask in public indoor settings, except for limited exceptions discussed in the model safety principles issued by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force on September 13, 2021.

In areas of low or moderate transmission, in most settings fully vaccinated people generally do not need to wear a mask or physically distance in federal buildings or on federal lands, except where called for by Federal, State, local, Tribal, or territorial laws, rules, and regulations.

Fully vaccinated individuals might choose to wear a mask regardless of the level of transmission for a variety of reasons.

CDC’s guidance for mask-wearing and physical distancing in specific settings, including healthcare, transportation, correctional and detention facilities, and schools, should be followed as applicable. Agencies should communicate with employee representatives and satisfy any applicable collective bargaining obligations prior to implementing changes to policies regarding mask wearing and physical distancing.

Q: Do federal employees, onsite contractor employees, and visitors who are not fully vaccinated need to wear a mask or physically distance in federal buildings or on federal lands?

A: Yes, people who are not fully vaccinated need to continue to wear a mask and physically distance consistent with CDC guidance and the requirements set forth in Executive Order 13991 and OMB Memorandum M-21-15 and the model safety principles issued by the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force on September 13, 2021.

Q: Should agencies update signs and post information online on agency websites to reflect the latest CDC masking and physical distancing guidance?

A: Yes, agencies should post signs and post information online on agency websites making clear what masking requirements apply in each federal facility.

Q: Do agencies or the building’s Facility Security Committee (FSC) need to issue orders making the wearing of masks consistent with CDC guidance a condition of entry for those persons wishing to access the facility?

A: EO 13991 requires agencies to take steps to implement the policy established by the EO, and these steps include orders by the occupant agency or the relevant Facility Security Committee (FSC), or, for GSA-controlled facilities, GSA imposing requirements consistent with the EO. If the agency with jurisdiction, custody, or control over a facility has not already issued a policy making the wearing of masks consistent with CDC guidance a condition of entry to the facility and throughout common areas and shared workspaces, the occupant agency must implement the requirements of EO 13991 and distribute notice of the face covering requirement through written signage posted conspicuously at each public entrance on the property, and through other communications of internal policies and guidance directed to its employees and contractors. The FSC should meet to discuss operational considerations (including conspicuous posting of notices at entrances to facilities), enforcement protocols, and any other issues associated with implementation of the EO requirements that require cross-agency collaboration at the local level.

Q: Does the requirement for individuals who are not fully vaccinated to wear a mask apply to outside areas of a facility (e.g., courtyards and sidewalks between buildings)?

A: In general, people do not need to wear masks when outdoors. However, consistent with CDC guidance, those who are not fully vaccinated should wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings or during outdoor activities that involve sustained close contact with other people who are not fully vaccinated.

Q: In areas of high or substantial transmission, will GSA require its onsite service contractors who are fully vaccinated (including custodial, operation, and maintenance contractors) to wear masks throughout building common areas and agency-occupied space? Will GSA require its onsite service contractors who are not fully vaccinated (including custodial, operation and maintenance contractors) to wear masks throughout building common areas and agency-occupied space? Should agencies that hire onsite service contractors in other, non-GSA controlled facilities require these contractors to wear masks throughout building common areas and agency-occupied space?

A: Yes, in areas of high or substantial transmission, GSA also will require its onsite service contractors who are fully vaccinated (including custodial, operation, and maintenance contractors) to wear face coverings throughout building common areas and agency-occupied space. Yes, GSA will also require its service contractors in GSA-controlled facilities who are not fully vaccinated to wear masks throughout common areas and agency-occupied space. For agencies in non-GSA-controlled facilities, policies and procedures should be put in place by the agency to require onsite service contractors who are not fully vaccinated (including custodial contractors) to wear masks throughout common areas and agency-occupied space.